Amy Gwinnett examines vinyl’s comeback – share this article, and you could WIN a record player and LP of your choice!*
Picture the scene: you’ve met a guy, he’s cute, you’ve gone back to his. He’s a little pretentious, sure, but we’re at UCL so who isn’t. You go into his bedroom, ‘I’ll just put some tunes on’ he says, with a knowing look. He has stacks of records in his room. With a show of deliberation, he picks one up. He does not ask what you would like to listen to. With a flourish, he places the black shiny disk on his Lenco L85, and the needle dives into the groove with a soft tap. To no-one’s surprise, it is Kid A. Before he speaks, you can hear the words in your head, they fill the room, he opens his mouth, here it comes, it is too late to go back:
‘I only listen to vinyl, the sound is just way more organic‘.
He gets up half way through to turn the record over. You do not reach climax.
I jest, but there is a certain image associated with those that buy vinyl. The Real Music Fan (TM), who is above your streaming services and your pirate bay, who requires more from his aural experience than simply clicking play. Is this accurate? Or is it the disposable-incomed 40-something, who never really got on with this ‘Spotify thing’ and hasn’t quite come to terms with it not being the 90s anymore? The recently established Official Vinyl Top 40, for both singles (known as 7 inches, kids) and albums (or LPs, i.e. long players) is illuminating; this week there are only 5 albums in the top 40 that are by woman or bands that include women. There is a lot of Oasis, Stone Roses, Smiths etc., and a lot of reissues, suggesting that the nostalgia argument for the vinyl revival has some weight. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being bought by older people. The student market for vinyl is solid and ever-growing: considering the expense and the ease of streaming, why? When I spoke to some student vinyl enthusiasts, similar themes arose again and again.
Lily Martin, an illustration student from Plymouth said: ‘not to sound really cliche but I grew up being around records because my dad and my granddad both had really nice players and kept using them when I was little! I wasn’t really into them during school because I was a rebellious teen, but when I started college I got into the Beatles and stuff and realised my granddad had this amazing collection. I used to go round after college and play them and get them out at Christmas time so it holds a really nice feeling for me.’
Nostalgia, not for your own youth but for your parent’s or even grandparent’s was a common theme among people I spoke to, and it seems that having musically inclined families is one of the big factors in getting people into vinyl. Phyllida Jacobs, an English student here at UCL, explains, ‘I first got into vinyl after my mum gave me her old records, like a lot of Bowie and Elton John’.
However, this doesn’t quite explain the gains vinyl has made specifically in recent years. Another common theory is that the transitory experience of modern music listening is prompting people towards the physical pleasure of vinyl; solid objects that you can own, stack, display… lick, if you were so inclined. ‘I think it’s just nice to have really, especially when you love a band so much you kind of want to own everything they make,’ says Lily. ‘A record just feels a bit more personal and real, like they recorded it straight onto this vinyl disk and you are hearing how they intended it to be heard’. And the record store experience is a valuable part of his physicality, as Phyllida says: ‘when so much of life is virtual – vinyl is very tactile. Also going to record stores and just looking is nice because you can chat to people about music and there’s an element of randomness you don’t get from, say, iTunes.’
Fandom and a desire to support the artist you love in more tangible ways were also big factors. ‘I got into it by buying a very limited Ben Howard record’ explained Jodie Harriet, from Plymouth, ‘cringe’, she hastens to add, ‘but it’s worth about £300, and then that was followed by a limited edition Keaton Henson record, and then by finding my favourites on eBay, and now I have a collection the size and height of a small table’. Tara Carlin, from UCL, also found that records were worth the expense: ‘what swayed me was the value for money of records – so you’d pay £18 for a record and get all these cool posters and a better sound whereas the CD would cost £10 so you’re not paying much more to get loads of treats’.
A question no doubt plaguing many a record shop owner is: is this boom sustainable? Well, streaming services certainly aren’t going anywhere, but even the decline in CD sales that we’ve seen over the past 10 years has started to bottom out, with a fall of only 3.7% last year, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association. It seems that physical formats are more durable than many predicted, but with vinyl that little bit extra special, a little more magical… so big and black and round and shiny… it offers an antidote to the instant gratification music consumption that reigns elsewhere. So, long live vinyl, not just for the hipster, or the retromaniac, but for everyone that’s ever loved a band or an album so much they wanted to hold it in their hands.
*If this article has got you lusting after some sweet, sweet vinyl then worry not – Pi is running a competition in conjunction with HMV to give away a rather snazzy Lenco L85 turntable and an LP of your choice from HMV’s Student Essentials (pick your fave here).
Just share this article on facebook and tag your housemates for a chance at winning!
Featured Image: Yanko Peyankov